Comparison of the Japanese, English, German, and Dutch versions

In this section, we will have a closer look at most of the first thirteen sentences, presenting the original version in transliterated form, accompanied by English glosses and followed by the translations in English, German, and Dutch.

First paragraph

(1) Tokaido-sen, tokubetsu-kyuko-ressha“hato” no tenbosha ni wa

Tokaido-line special-express train “Hato” gen observation car Loc top katagawa no madogiwa ni sotte, itsutsu no kaitenisu ga

one.side gen side.of.the.window loc along five gen swivel.chair nom naran-deiru, sonohashino hitotsu dake ga, resshano ugoki ni be.arranged-Asp that edge GENone only nom train gen movement Loc tsurete, hitorideni sizukani mawat-teiru-no-ni, Oki wa kizui-ta following by.itself quietly swivel-ASP-NMLZ-Loc Oki top notice-PAST

E: Five swivel chairs were ranged along the other side of the observation car of the Kyoto express. Oki Toshio noticed that the one on the end was quietly revolving with the movement of the train.

G: Im Aussichtswagen des Expresszuges >>Hato<< der Tokaido-Linie standen an einer Fensterseite ffinf Drehsessel in einer Reihe. Toshio Oki bemerkte, dass sich der letzte Sessel in dieser Reihe durch die Bewegungen des Zuges gerauschlos hin- und herdrehte.

D: Vijf draaistoelen stonden op een rij langs het raam in het panoramarijtuig van de Hato-expres op de Tokado-lijn. Het viel Toshio Oki op dat alleen de verste rustig ronddraaide op het ritme van de trein.

Our first observation has to do with the order in which the Figure, the five chairs, and the Ground, the observation car, are presented. The Japanese version displays the Ground-Figure order, in accordance with the preference that Tajima and Duffield (2012) pointed out: first the context, then the Figure. Starting with the Ground and then zooming in on the Figure fits the Japanese preference for taking the whole situation into perspective and situating the Figure in this context. In the English and Dutch translation, this order is reversed, but the German version follows the Japanese order. German is known for its flexibility regarding the constituents that can be put in the initial position; it is even more flexible than Dutch, which might explain the choice that the translator has made for German. With this choice, the translator stays closer to the Japanese way of portraying the situation.

If we turn to perspective now, we observe that in the Japanese original, the sentence ends with Oki wa kizui-ta ‘Oki noticed’, which places the foregoing content in Oki’s perspective. The reader thus receives this perspectival information only after the content itself. In all three translations, the sentence is split up in two. In the first sentence, the arrangement of the five swivel chairs in the observation car is described from a neutral narrator perspective. At the beginning of the second sentence, Oki’s perspective is introduced (Oki Toshio noticed, Toshio

Oki bemerkte, Het viel Toshio Oki op). Probably, this leads the reader to incorporate, in retrospect, what has been described in the first sentence into Oki’s perspective. A foreshadowing of this incorporation-in-retrospect can be seen in the English version, which has on the other side in the first sentence, which implicitly already evokes a vantage point which is situated “on this side”. The other versions, including the original, present the placement of the chairs from a neutral perspective: katagawa ‘one side’, an einer Fensterseite ‘at one window side’, op een rij langs het raam ‘at a row along the window’. Only later is the personalized perspective of Oki introduced.

Already in this first fragment, we have observed a subtle interplay between the perspectives of the narrator and the character. The two perspectives are distinguishable but smoothly merge and separate.

(2) sore ni me o hika-reru-to hanase-nakat-ta.

it dir eye acc attract-PASS-as depart-NEG-PAST

E: He could not take his eyes from it.

G: Er starrte gebannt darauf.

D: Nu dit zijn aandacht had getrokken, kon hij er zijn ogen niet meer van afhouden.

In the Japanese original of S2, the observed situation (represented by the pronoun sore) is the point of departure of the sentence. From there, the attention of the reader moves to the fascination in the eye and mind of Oki. The same “direction” is taken in the Dutch translation (with the pronoun dit ‘this’), whereas the English and German translations depart from Oki. It is hard to decide which of the two perspectives is the more subjective one. The English and German versions are ambiguous: on the one hand, they allow a separate narrator’s perspective, observing Oki and seeing that he is fascinated and keeps on looking at the one revolving chair. The alternative interpretation is that starting with he/er allows the reader to take Oki’s perspective directly and follow the fascination from his eyes to the situation. The German verb starren ‘stare’ captures the fascinated view early on in the sentence in a compact way. The Japanese and Dutch versions proceed stepwise, from the observed situation to the more subjective perceptual process itself, stating that Oki could not give up his involved perception.

(3) Oki no koshikake-teiru-gawa no hikui hijikakeisu wa ugoka-nu-mono Oki gen sit-ASP-side gen low arm.chair top move-NEG-NMLZ de korera wa mochiron kaiten deki-nai.

as these top certainly swivel

E: The low armchairs on his side of the car did not swivel.

G: Die niedrigen Sitze mit Armlehne auf der Seite, wo er safi, waren fest und unbeweglich.

D: De lage armstoelen aan Oki’s kant zaten vast, en konden uiteraard niet om hun as draaien.

The aspect we want to comment upon in this sentence is the modal adverb mochi- ron ‘certainly’ in the Japanese version, translated in Dutch as uiteraard, ‘of course, as everybody will understand’. Note that an equivalent of this modal meaning is totally lacking in the English and German versions.

In section 2.1, we referred to Eckardt (2012: 110), who pointed out that a marker of uncertainty “often only makes sense for a protagonist, not for the narrator. Hence, wohl can be a reliable clue for a shift in context”. In a footnote, Eckardt notes that narrators too can indicate their uncertainty, although this is rather exceptional. In the present text, we have a marker of certainty. To whom should this be ascribed? Is it the narrator who indicates that the non-swiveling property of the chairs is evident or is it rather to be ascribed to Oki, meaning that he realizes that the chairs on his side are fixed?

Mochiron and uiteraard evoke an implicit dialogic, intersubjective context for the actual utterance (cf. Engberg-Pedersen & Boeg Thomsen, this volume, on dialogue particles). The possibility of the alternative (swiveling chairs) is evoked as a possible option, proposed by another voice and then strongly rejected. But who, then, is the other voice in the dialogue? If the modal marker is ascribed to the narrator, then the reader comes into the picture as the partner addressed. In this interpretation, we have to do with an “intrusive narrator”, commenting on the observation of the non-swiveling and sharing it with the reader, who is treated as someone who has the same knowledge about chairs in Japanese observation cars. Nuyts (2012) would call this “intersubjective modality”, where the attitude of certainty is shared (between the narrator and the reader). An extra effect that occurs under this interpretation is that of taking a certain distance from the character: we, the narrator and the reader, see poor Oki, sitting in his chair, “stuck”, as his chair can’t move.

The alternative interpretation would be that the modal certainty is ascribed to Oki and only to Oki. In that case, we have a strong subjective perspective. An inner dialogue of Oki is suggested, wherein he talks to himself. In the end Oki realizes that he is “stuck”, as his type of chair is not of the moving type.

We find it hard to reach a final decision about which interpretation is the right one. Given the fact that Japanese, and Kawabata in particular, opts for a subjective perspective, Japanese mochiron can very well be interpreted as a means to intensify Oki’s subjective perspective (‘I am stuck, no doubt about it’). Dutch

uiteraard is a rather formal word, which invites the ascription to the narrator. The ascription problem might have been the reason for the English and German translators simply to neglect the modal marker.

Second paragraph

(4) tenbosha ni Oki hitoride at-ta. Loc Oki alone be-pAsT

E: Oki was alone in the observation car.

G: Oki war der einzige Reisende im Aussichtswagen.

D: Oki was de enige passagier in de wagen.

Note first that in the Japanese original the order is again Ground-Figure, whereas all three translations take the reverse order. With regard to perspective, it can be observed that German and Dutch use the predicate Reisende, passagier ‘passenger’, which rather suggests an objective, outside perspective, as if someone counted the number of passengers, with the outcome “one”. Japanese hitoride and English alone can also mean ‘feeling alone’, which makes the text more ambiguous. Besides the narrator’s perspective, Oki’s feelings or even his perspective come into the picture. If we accept both perspectives holding at the same time, then we have a case of mixed perspectives here.

(5) Oki wa hijikakeisu ni fukaku motare-te, muko-gawa no

Oki top arm.chair Loc deep lean-coNjp over.there-side gen

kaitenisu no hitotsu ga mawaru-no o nagame-tei-ta.

swivel.chair gen one nom swivel-NMLZ acc observe-ASP-PAST

E: Slouched deep in his armchair, he watched the end chair turn.

G: Tief in seinem Sitz zuruckgelehnt, beobachtete er den sich hin-und herdrehen- den Sessel auf der anderen Seite.

D: Diep achterovergeleund staarde hij naar die ene stoel aan de overkant.

S5 has two parts. In the first clause, it is observed that Oki is slouched deep in his armchair. This evokes primarily the narrator’s perspective. But in the second clause, the perspective switches to Oki’s, who observes the turning of the chair. Note that the Japanese, German and Dutch versions refer to ‘the other side’, which had been done in the English version already in S1. This ‘other side’ phrasing strengthens the subjective perspective. We conclude that in all four versions the two perspectives easily flow from one to the other.

(6) kimatta hoho-ni kimatta sokudo de mawat-teiru to

fixed direction-DiR fixed speed at turn-ASP quote

iu-no-de-wa nakat-ta.

say-NMLZ-coNjP-TOP non.existent-PAST

E: Not that it kept turning in the same direction, at the same speed:

G: Nicht dass dieser sich immer in dieselbe Richtung mit immer derselben Geschwindigkeit bewegte,

D: Hij draaide niet in een bepaalde richting of met een constante snelheid.

In the Dutch translation, there is no main clause-subordinate clause division, and the negation is simply embedded in the one main clause. The English and German versions have a special construction here: not that ..., with an elliptical main clause containing a negation, and an embedded clause without negation. It seems that in Japanese, the construction is similar in this respect: there is a main clause at the end, iu-no-de-wa nakka-ta, with a negation in nakat. Dan- cygier (2012b) discusses the neg-raising controversy and claims that the presence of negation in an embedding main clause often relates to an epistemic stance. This seems to be the case here too. The Japanese, English and German versions suggest a deliberating subject, who wonders why the chair is not simply swiveling in one and the same direction and at the same speed. This inner dialogue can be seen as a mixing of points of view within one person. In the Dutch version, the construction is not subjective; the observation of the varying swiveling could as well be ascribed to the narrator, although in the context of the previous sentence, the ascription to the protagonist is the more plausible one. One could say that the ascription to Oki is more strongly prompted by the construction in Japanese, English and German, while it is left to the reader in the Dutch version.

(7) sukoshi hayaku nat-tari, yuruyakani nat-tari, tokidoki

little fast become-and slow become-and sometimes

tomat-tari, mata gyaku no ho e mawaru-koto mo at-ta.

stop-and again opposite gen direction dir turn-NMLZ too be-PAST

E: Sometimes it went a little faster, or a little slower, or even stopped and began turning in the opposite direction.

G: Er drehte sich mal etwas schneller, mal etwas langsamer, stand zuweilen still und schwenkte dann wieder in die entgegengesetzte Richtung.

D: Nu eens ging hij snel, dan wat trager, en soms stopte hij eventjes, om vervol- gens weer de tegengestelde richting uit te gaan.

In S7, the swiveling movements of the chair are observed in on-line sequential detail, with high resolution. According to Chafe (2010: 54), such passages evoke “immediate consciousness”, this time Oki’s. We see no differences between the four languages here. This immediate consciousness of the details in the movement easily affects the inner motions of the perceiver, and that is indeed what happens in the next passage.

(8) tonikaku shikashi kyakusha ni Oki hitori-dake no mae de,

anyway but Loc Oki alone-only gen front at

kaitenisu no hitotsu-dake ga hitorideni mawaru-no o

swivel.chair gen one-only nom by.itself turn-NMLZ acc

mi-teiru-no wa, Oki no kokoro no uchi no sabishisa see-ASP-NMLZ top Oki gen heart gen inside gen loneliness o sasoi-dashi, ironna omoi o yurameka-se-ta Acc invite-begin various thought Acc flicker-CAUS-PAST

E: To look at that one revolving chair, wheeling before him in the empty car, made him feel lonely. Thoughts of the past began flickering through his mind.

G: Der Anblick dieses einen sich im Aussichtswagen hin-und herdrehenden Sessels weckte ein Gefuhl der Einsamkeit in ihm. Die verschiedensten Gedanken gingen ihm durch den Kopf.

D: Hoe dan ook, het tafereel van de stoel die als enige rondtolde in het bijzijn van een enkele passagier, deed Oki in eenzame gedachten verzinken.

As opposed to S7, S8 shows differences between the four versions. In the Japanese and Dutch versions, the sentence starts with a marker which is absent in the English and German versions. In Japanese, it is tonikaku shikasi, in Dutch hoe dan ook, ‘however that may be, anyway’, marking a rather abrupt transition, in this case from describing the swiveling of the chair to the feelings of Oki caused by it. Such discourse markers are typical for a narrator’s voice, but what precedes and what follows the discourse marker represents content from Oki’s perspective. The sentence is about Oki’s attention, which shifts from his outward oriented observation to his inside feeling. There is a natural connection between the two, as the observed swiveling chair evokes the lonely feeling. Connections between observation and feeling are a favorite “topos” in Japanese literature, and in the translations, the link does not look strange either. So maybe the right interpretation of the discourse markers in the Japanese and Dutch versions is that they are meant to indicate Oki’s rather sudden realization that he feels lonely. However, Dutch hoe dan ook sounds rather formal, and the same holds for uiteraard in S3. Whereas the English and German translators decided to leave out a direct transla?tion in both cases, the Dutch translator tried to stay close to the original, with a non-optimal result.

Third paragraph

(9) kure no nijuku-nichi de ar-u.

year.end. gen twenty.nine-day Loc be-pREs

E: It was the twenty-ninth of December.

G: Es war der 29. Dezember.

D: Het was 29 december.

(10) Oki wa Kyoto e joya no kane o kiki-ni

Oki top Kyoto dir New.Year’s.Eve gen bell Acc



E: Oki was going to Kyoto to hear the New Year’s Eve bells.

G: Oki war auf dem Weg nach Kyoto, um dort das Neujahrglockenlauten mitzu- erleben.

D: Oki was op weg naar Kyoto, om er te luisteren naar de nieuwjaarsklokken van de tempels.

The second paragraph ends in a very subjective way: Oki’s feeling of loneliness, strengthened by the one revolving chair, whirling up memories of the past. In contrast to this, the third paragraph strikes the reader as a sharp break, back to the perspective of the narrator, who gives some background information on time and place. This information sounds “objective”, but in fact, both time and place are strongly loaded with emotion: the change of place from Tokyo, where Oki’s family resides, to Kyoto, where Otoko lives. And New Year’s Eve has a strong emotional meaning for Oki, as the next paragraph makes clear. From the narrator’s objective informational perspective in the present paragraph, there is a shift to a mixed perspective in the next paragraph.

Paragraph 4

(11) Oki ga omisoka no yoru rajio de joya no kane

Oki nom Silvester gen night radio Loc New.Year’s.Eve gen bell

o kiku narawashi wa mo ikunen

Acc custom top already many.years



E: For how many years had he heard the tolling of those bells over the radio?

G: Wie viele Jahre mochte er es wohl schon in der Silvesternacht im Radio gehort haben?

D: Hoe lang had hij nu al de gewoonte om op oudejaarsavond via de radio naar het luiden van de klokken te luisteren?

(12) kono hoso ga nannen-mae kara hajimat-ta-ka

this broadcast nom how.many.years-before from begin-PAST-QUEST

osorakuwa sore irai, kakasazuni

probably that since continuously


E: How long ago had the broadcast begun? Probably he had listened to them every year since then, ...

G: Wie viel Jahre gab es diese Sendung schon? Hatte er uberhaupt je versaumt, sie zu horen?

D: De uitzending ervan was jaren geleden begonnen, en ongetwijfeld had hij er sindsdien geen enkele gemist.

(13) Nihon no achirakochira no furudera no meisho no oto

Japan gen here.and.there gen old.temple gen attraction gen

o kiki-nagara, anaunsa no kaisetu ga kuwawar-u.

acc announcer gen commentary nom be.added-PRES

E: . and to the commentary by various announcers, as they picked up the sound of famous old bells from temples all around the country.

G: Wahrend das Gelaut beruhmter Glocken alter Tempel aus allen Teilen Japans erklang, sprach der Ansager seinen Kommentar.

D: Men liet het gelui van beroemde oude tempelklokken van over heel Japan horen, voorzien van enige toelichting door verslaggevers.

S11, 12, and 13

These sentences represent free indirect discourse, the paradigmatic case of mixed point of view in narrative discourse. One indication can be found in the Dutch translation of S11, where nu ‘now’ is combined with past tense had ‘had’ (cf. Nikiforidou 2012). S11, 12, 13 present in more detail the ‘thoughts of the past’, which were indicated already in S9. Oki is not sure about the number of years he has listened to the bells over the radio. The questions in S11 and 12 represent a clear example of “inner dialogue in which self-knowledge is achieved through the posing of questions, to which answers are provided” (Pascual 2014: 6, referring to the ideas of Bakhtin). In S11, the Japanese particle mo ‘already, by this time’, German wohl schon, and Dutch nu al contribute to the subjective perspective (cf. Eckardt 2012). The prototypical epistemic marker probably in S12 also indicates a subjective perspective. It is remarkable that the Dutch version has ongetwijfeld ‘without doubt’ here. We have no idea why the translator shifted the modality, but it is quite possible to interpret it from Oki’s perspective as an answer to his selfquestion about whether there had been a year when he had missed the broadcast. His answer is “certainly not”.

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